Parents are sometimes dismayed and worried when their chatty ten year old turns into a withdrawn fourteen year old. Teens need to create a place in their mind that their parents do not occupy. Silence provides the thinking space teens need in order to sort out what and who they are.
The following are circumstances when they are not normal or healthy
Withdrawal from an intrusive parent. When parents interpret their teen’s silence as either a withdrawal of love or a serious problem, they sometimes overwhelm the teen with words. This can hinder a teen’s ability to have her own experiences. By being overly intrusive, the parent creates an actual problem and perpetuates a cycle of interrogation and withdrawal.
Limited ability to describe experiences and emotions. Teens sometimes don’t have a vocabulary adequate to describe their experiences, feelings and reactions. They are much more comfortable simply commenting briefly on their activities. Emotion laden words aren’t comfortable for them and so they avoid them.
Fear of emotion. Even when they have the emotional vocabulary teens often prefer to avoid dealing with strong negative feelings. They are still working on experiencing emotions without being afraid the emotions might get out of control or become too painful to bear. So in response they shut down.
Depression. Teens who are depressed are often silent. Depression is painfu;;. Often a depressed teen feels as if everything is wrong with her and her life, she has lost hope for anything good. Often she will withdraw from her parents and the world.
Passive Punishment. Sometimes teens will withdraw into silence because they feel angry or hostile towards their parents and don’t want to risk incurring their parents anger with angry words or actions. Their silence conveys anger, dismissal, or contempt.
HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS
Talk about the root of the silence – You might be tempted to talk first about the silence itself, however your teen lives and focuses more on the problems that shut him down. So first address the reason behind the silence, whether it be punishment, deression, fear or withdrawal from intrusiveness.
Discuss the silence. Once you’ve discussed the reason for the silence, bring up the silence itself. Discuss his feelings, then your feelings, then what should be done to rectify
Give space and time. Even when life is going well your teen may be reserved. Allow space and time for her to assimilate what has been said and done so far. You want your teen to come out of her silence because she wants to, not because she feels coerced.Require Dialogue. You may have to enforce consequences, especially of they are angry and punishing. Whatever consequences you establish, remember they are for the purpose of helping your teen open up. When he makes the effort to dialogue, drop the consequence and connect.